HONG KONG • A high-profile Hong Kong pro-independence leader said yesterday that he had been barred from standing in upcoming parliamentary elections - the latest candidate backing separation from mainland China to be disqualified.
The apparent ban for Mr Edward Leung, of the Hong Kong Indigenous party, from next month's vote came despite his signing a controversial new form declaring that Hong Kong is an "inalienable" part of China.
Critics have slammed the new stipulation by the electoral authorities as political censorship and an attempt to deter prospective candidates from advocating self-determination or independence from Beijing.
Some activists are calling for more distance or even a breakaway from the mainland as fears grow that freedoms in the semi-autonomous city are disappearing due to Beijing interference.
Campaigners have challenged the declaration form in court and at least 13 prospective candidates have refused to sign it.
Critics have slammed the new stipulation by electoral authorities as political censorship and an attempt to deter prospective candidates from advocating self-determination or independence from Beijing.
Mr Leung, 25, eventually signed it last week, despite his open advocacy for an independent Hong Kong, in the hope that the authorities would validate his candidacy.
But his party said yesterday he had been rejected. It accused the electoral commission of "trampling on the will of the people, abusing administrative power and giving up political neutrality".
"There is no way the crime of selecting candidates according to political goals can be easily forgiven," it said in a statement.
The founder of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party, Mr Andy Chan, was one of three other hopefuls barred in recent days from standing in the September vote.
Mr Chan had refused to sign the declaration form.
The other two prospective candidates who were disqualified were also part of the "localist" movement, which is pushing for more autonomy for Hong Kong after pro-democracy rallies in 2014 failed to win political reform.
Beijing and Hong Kong officials have repeatedly said that advocating independence goes against the city's mini-Constitution, and that independence activists could face legal consequences.